NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In Kevin Byard, now the NFL’s highest-paid safety, the Titans have locked up a rangy, hard-hitter and a defensive centerpiece.

The Titans look to have the core of a solid defense in place for several years.ByardIntro

With Byard (signed through 2024), Jeffery Simmons (team option through 2023), Jurrell Casey (2022), Kenny Vaccaro (2022), Malcolm Butler (2022), Rashaan Evans (team option through 2022), Adoree’ Jackson (team option through 2021) and Harold Landry (2021), the Titans have eight defensive starters in line for at least the next three seasons.

Among them, only Simmons, the 19th pick in this year’s draft, has not proven himself to be at least a promising NFL talent, though his game was almost universally well regarded coming out of Mississippi State and he lasted so long primarily because of a knee injury that will render him unavailable deep into his rookie season. [Unlocked]

Byard was the headliner of a significant group of Titans heading into a contract year. Now GM Jon Robinson can cross his best draft pick so far off that list, and will have the franchise tag at his disposal for Marcus Mariota, Derrick Henry, or Jack Conklin if the Titans are in a position where they must retain one of them and can’t strike a deal before free agency arrives in the spring of 2020. 

The Titans have been consistently rewarding their best players, with Casey, Delanie Walker, Taylor Lewan and now Byard getting paydays. It's the ideal way to build -- rewarding productive draft picks or outside acquisitions for their production and fit. While they have not earned long-term deals ahead of their contract years, the hope now is that Mariota, Henry and Conklin will have seasons that force the Titans to treat them in a similar fashion.

Logan Ryan, Wesley Woodyard, Ryan Tannehill, Ben Jones, Beau Brinkley, Kamalei Correa, Brent Urban, Tajae Sharpe and Kevin Pamphile are other players not under contract beyond this season.

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